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Structural Intuitions

Seeing Shapes in Art and Science
Martin Kemp

BUY Cloth · 256 pp. · 7 × 8.5 · ISBN 9780813937007 · $29.50 · Mar 2016
BUY Ebook · 256 pp. · ISBN 9780813936994 · $29.50 · Mar 2016

"All great achievements of science must start from intuitive knowledge," wrote Albert Einstein. In Structural Intuitions, a fascinating exploration of the commonalities between two seemingly disparate realms, renowned art historian Martin Kemp applies Einstein's notion both to science and to art.

Kemp argues that in both fields, work begins at the intuitive level, curiosity aroused by our recognition of patterns or order. Kemp's "structural intuitions," then, are the ways we engage fundamental perceptual and cognitive mechanisms to bring order to our observed world. Through stimulating juxtaposition, Kemp considers connections between naturally occurring patterns, cognitive processes, and artistic and scientific expression, drawing on an array of examples from the Renaissance through the present.

Taking a broadly historical approach, Kemp examines forms and processes such as the geometry of Platonic solids, the dynamics of growth, and the patterns of fluids in motion, while placing the work of contemporary artists, engineers, and scientists in dialogue with that of visionaries such as Leonardo da Vinci and D'Arcy Thompson.

Richly illustrated, lucidly written, and wonderfully thought-provoking, Structural Intuitions is essential reading for anyone seeking insight into common ground in the arts and sciences.


In this highly stimulating book, Martin Kemp offers an extremely fertile proposal for how science and art draw on cognitive processes that are closely allied. His novel thesis, drawing on a deep knowledge of both art history and scientific research, does a great deal to illuminate the interactions and interrelations of the two disciplines, and provides a timely challenge to our habitual determination to keep them apart.

Philip Ball, author of Nature's Patterns: A Tapestry in Three Parts

The idea of 'structural intuitions' as uniquely devised and defined by the author remains radical and unique, presenting a paradigm shift in thinking about the interconnections between art and science. Kemp has continued to develop an analysis of the phenomenon in a wide sweep across scholarly disciplines and over history. Here, he brings together a full, succinct, and even more considered elaboration of his theme.

Siân Ede, author of Art & Science

About the Author(s): 

Martin Kemp is Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford and the author of Seen/Unseen, Leonardo, and Christ to Coke.

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